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City depts efficient, say consultant

By Stephen Uhler, The Daily Observer

Pembroke’s city hall staff are a lean machine of efficiency and cost effectiveness.

This according to an operational review conducted this summer of the administration, treasury, and planning, building and bylaw enforcement departments by the consulting firm StrategyCorp, which presented its findings to city councillors.

Speaking Tuesday evening to the city’s recreation, culture and tourism committee, Chris Loreto, vice-president and group head of StrategyCorp, said the three departments were operating in an effective and efficient manner. He said his company found the departments are generally well run.

“You are efficiently organized as a municipality,” he said, noting their report is more in the vein of suggesting continuous improvement than for any need of major changes. “This is a testament to how well the organization is run.”

StrategyCorp, which did a similar review of the operations department last year, was hired earlier to examine how the three departments work from top to bottom, as well as interviewing people both within and outside the department, and comparing the city's operations to other similar municipalities. The idea was to find out how the departments were working, if they are being efficient, and were there ways to improve things.

Loreto said the departments displayed real strength in three areas. He said the costs to run the three is appropriate, with spending either average or below average when compared to what peer municipalities like Cornwall, Brockville, Smiths Falls and St. Thomas have been spending, which were selected by the consultants as benchmarks to compare the city to, from 2009-2014.

Secondly, he said they found the staff are engaged, being generally proactive, open to change and committed to continuous improvement. Loreto said he addition of new staff in recent years has added some additional skill sets to an already strong and engaged team.

Thirdly, he said they found morale is strong, with the consultants finding a positive attitude at City Hall, and council is active and keen on working with management and staff to achieve its strategic and operational objectives.

“As a result of these strengths, Pembroke is able to operate under a lean organizational structure within the administration, treasury, and planning, building and bylaw enforcement departments, delivering high quality services with a lean staffing complement,” Loreto said.

There is room for improvement. StrategyCorp found the city staff need a succession plan and an ongoing succession planning process to identify and plan for the departures of key personnel; create an employee training protocol which sets out specific training programs tied into the city’s long-term succession planning process; increase both internal communications so staff is kept up to date what is happening within, and external communications to keep the public informed, through the increased use of social media, the website and email notifications.

Loreto also said they recommend developing a multi-year IT plan to increasingly build its digital communications and service delivery capabilities for customers such as paying online, and doing electronic cash transfers to vendors; develop a municipal customer service policy and integrate systematic digital tracking of enquiries and complaints to identify ways to improve customer service; set up a multi-year cycle for the review, update or elimination of outdated or unnecessary bylaws; and re-profile the vacant secretary position in the planning, building and bylaw enforcement to a planning technician to help support planning functions and broader administrative responsibilities for the department.

Loreto said overall these three city departments are in good shape and they should be proud with what they have, describing it as a lean and cost effective structure.

The committee accepted the report, agreeing succession planning is something they need to work on, along with the other suggestions.

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